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Antonio Carlos Jr. hoping to fight Derek Brunson — or any other top 10 fighter — at UFC Sao Paulo

Antonio Carlos Junior Cara de Sapato (GC)
Antonio Carlos Junior wonders if Derek Brunson will agree to fight him in Brazil.
Guilherme Cruz, MMA Fighting

Winner of five in a row in the UFC middleweight division, Antonio Carlos Junior was heading into the biggest fight of his career on Aug. 4, facing Derek Brunson at UFC 227 in Los Angeles, but doesn’t know what’s next for him after Brunson pulled out of the card.

Brunson was forced to withdraw from the bout with a “small injury”, he posted on his social media earlier this month, and “Cara de Sapato” wonders if he really tried his best to make it to the fight.

”Brunson pulling out of the fight five weeks before, and then saying it was a small injury. Hold on, there’s something wrong here,” Junior told MMA Fighting. “I don’t know what his injury was, he said it was an eye issue, but I’m thinking he doesn’t wanna see me.”

”He had plenty of time to recover if it really was something small,” he continued. “The UFC had doctors to make sure you can recover, so he had everything it takes to make sure he can fight on August 4.”

“Cara de Sapato” says he was told by the UFC that the plan was to move the match-up to the upcoming UFC Fight Night card in Sao Paulo, on Sept. 22, but that Brunson wasn't expected to be cleared in time to fight in Brazil.

”I don’t know what he’s thinking, if he wants to buy some time, but I wanna stay active," Junior said. "I really wanted to fight in August and then again in December. That was my plan, but fighting in September, I won’t have enough time to fight again this year. I hope he takes this fight or they bring someone else ranked in the top 10. I want to fight.”

The jiu-jitsu wizard is currently ranked at No. 11 in the official UFC middleweight list, five spots under Brunson, and says it doesn’t make sense to fight someone outside the top 10. In fact, he wonders what goes through the minds of the ranking panelists that have fighters like Paulo Costa and Israel Adesanya ranked over him.

”I don’t know what’s the ranking criteria,” Junior said. “I was a world champion in jiu-jitsu, and you only achieve that by winning matches. If you win fights, you become champion. Now, their criteria is a bit controversial.

“‘Borrachinha’ (Costa) is doing his job, he’s right in taking the opportunities that the UFC is giving him, but he has as many UFC fights as I have of submissions in the UFC. How is he ranked three positions ahead of me? I was the TUF winner at heavyweight, I’ve beaten great opponents, so I think the UFC has to come up with a better ranking system because this one makes no sense.

”It directly affects athlete’s lives. Where I stand in the ranking affects how much money I will make, affects who will be my next opponent, and how long it will take for me to get to a title fight.”

If Brunson doesn’t agree to fight him in Sao Paulo eight weeks from now, “Cara de Sapato” wants any other top 10.

”I wanna fight in Sao Paulo. I will fight in Sao Paulo,” Junior said. “I can fight anyone. Israel Adesanya too. He’s considered the next big thing now and is also ranked ahead of me with only three UFC fights, man. He has a split decision over someone I beat via unanimous decision. It doesn’t make sense.

”I want anyone from the top 10. It doesn’t make sense to fight someone ranked below me. I’ve won five in a row. Only the champion has a longer winning streak in the division. I deserve someone ranked. Whoever it is, I’ll be ready to represent Brazil.”

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